Saturday, December 17, 2005

Always Smiling...Well, Almost Always

Imagine...the quarterback drops back into the pocket...he looks left...nothing. Then he looks right...he spots one of his trusted receivers slipping behind the secondary. He draws the ball back...ready to spring. As the camera zooms in tight, we see a big flashy smile. Reality? Of course not...he's focused...eyes fixed on his intended target...this is no time to be smiling.

As the athletes on the field maintain their disciplined composure...thier "game face" is stalwart...composed...focused. In contrast, the game face of the athletes on the sideline includes a perpetual smile during every one of their "plays"...during pressure situations, through the toughest of elements and even when the score looks hopeless. These are the cheerleaders. While we wouldn't expect football players to be smiling as a part of their athletic's a major element of the cheer team's game.

With championship titles, scholarships and prestige on the line, it is no secret that cheerleading is no longer strictly about rhythmic chants, but is heavily swayed towards athleticism. And throughout every routine, no matter if it's 40 degrees and raining or the team is performing a routine with a high degree of difficulty, the smile is present. It's's's a trademark.

During the OSAA State Football Playoffs and Championships, a wide variety of cheer teams supported their teams. Mohawk High, from the small Western Oregon town of Marcola had three cheer team members...while 4A Lincoln High School of Portland sported a squad of about 20. No matter what the size of the squad or the level of skill, the common denominator is an ever-present smile...through every routine...without regard of the elements.

Of course, the smiles often give way to tears when a playoff loss shatters the dream of a championship. But it's only a brief interruption, as pride of an accomplished season soon has the team thinking about getting ready for the next season to follow.

250 Miles, 18 Wins, 127 Goals, 1 State Title

Living on the eastern side of the Cascade Range in Oregon has many benefits that the urban centers on the western side of the state struggle to compete with....strong community bonds, a beautiful environment and a more manageable pace of life are just a few of the treasures of Eastern Oregon living. However, for high school athletes there are a few challenges. One of the most grueling is that athletes spend a lot of time on buses traveling to and from competitions. It is not uncommon for a school to have to travel over 100 miles for a normally scheduled game. So when McLaughlin Union High School from the north-eastern Oregon town of Milton-Freewater packed their undefeated soccer team, along with over 200 fans, on buses and traveled 250 miles to the Portland metro area for the OSAA 3A Soccer State Championship, it was not just another bus ride.

McLaughlin dominated their opponents during season play, with 14 wins and 114 goals...a majority of those goals were scored by Marcos Betancourt and Victor Corona. After including their playoff matches, the Pioneers tallied 18 wins with 127 goals-for and only 9 goals-against. During McLaughlin's state final match, the dangerous duo struck for a goal each as the Pioneers shocked LaSalle High School, located in the Portland area, to win the state title in an exciting 2-1 victory. Betancourt converted a first-half penalty and Corona struck a sizzling 25 yard free kick with the outside of his right foot which beat LaSalle keeper Clarke Henarie in the upper-right corner.

The 250 mile bus ride back to the open range country of Eastern Oregon was likely the most pleasurable 7 hour trip the McLaughlin Pioneers ever experienced, for this was the school's first state soccer title. The Pioneers no longer have to live in the shadow of the more prominent 3A schools on the western side of Oregon. In fact, as the new soccer dawn rises from the East, it's the urban schools that are now in McLaughlin's shadow.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Oregon 1A Football Playoffs at the Rodeo Grounds

It’s a small western Oregon farming community of 360 people…a high school with an enrollment of only 72 students. Yet every year the town of St. Paul, Oregon shows its support of the St. Paul High School 8-man football team by providing a newly planted field in the town’s center stage, the St. Paul Rodeo Grounds.

Home to one of Oregon’s largest rodeo events held each 4th of July, the St. Paul Rodeo grounds is also the home field for the St. Paul Buckaroos 8-man football team. Shortly after the last bronco has bucked off the last rodeo contestant, a small troop of volunteers begin work building a football field in the middle of the rodeo grounds in preparation of the upcoming fall football games for St. Paul High using donated seed from the local Oregon grass seed farmers. The 10,000 seat arena provides more than ample seating and is perhaps the most unique home field for an 8-man football team anywhere in the nation.

After the fall football season, the troop of volunteers moves in and tear up the arena grounds in preparation of the biggest hoedown in Western Oregon. Year-after-year, the cycle has continued…plant a field…play football…then tear it up and host the rodeo. It is a great show of community support appreciated by present and past student athletes of St. Paul High School.

These photos are of St. Paul’s second round OSAA 1A 8-man football playoff game against Joseph High School from Northeastern Oregon. St. Paul’s pristine field holds up most the season, but as playoffs roll around in mid-November, the Oregon rains weaken the temporary turf and a good ol’ fashion mud bowl creates a challenge for both teams. Joseph’s 250 mile trek back to Eastern Oregon was a lot more bearable as their 32-6 victory spoiled the home team’s hopes of advancing to round three of the playoffs.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

The Longest Yard

If you are over 30, you likely have seen the movie The Longest Yard. Burt Reynolds plays an "old pro" quarterback that leads a rag-tag team of prisoners in a football game against the guards in the 1974 classic film. The final scene is a bit cliche...seconds to go...the prisoners down to their last play, needing a touchdown to win. The ball is snapped...Reynolds begins a sweeping run around the right tackle (all in ultra-slow motion, of course). As he rounds the corner, he sees that his path to the endzone is obstructed by numerous opponents. He reverses course...starts a long sprint towards the opposite side of the field, looking for an opening to the goal line. Suddenly, he sees an opportunity...he cuts towards the endzone...dives over a pile of players...the guns sounds...the game ends...Reynolds lands in the endzone the hero...the prisoners beat the guards. These plays only happen in the movies...right? Wrong!

In a recent youth football game between the Southridge Skyhawks 3/4s and the Tualatin Timberwolves 3/4s (third and fourth graders), the scene from The Longest Yard played out, almost to the tee. After letting the Skyhawks slip out to a three touchdown lead, the feisty Timberwolves fought their way back to within a touchdown in the waning moments of the fourth quarter. The scene was set...down to their last play and only a few seconds remaining, the 'Wolves were inside the Skyhawk's ten yardline. Well, if you haven't figured it out by now...a remarkable play was about to unfold.

The Timberwolves' halfback took the ball...sweeping wide right, he gets cut off as he heads towards the endzone...nearly tackled, he spins around and heads to the opposite side of the field. As he outsprints all eleven Skyhawks, the horn sounds...the game has ended...but his run had yet to...he continued his run heading to the corner of the endzone. One last Skyhawk dives for him in a futile attempt to dash the fairytale run. He misses...Tualatin scores...the game was now over with the Timberwolves celebrating an improbable victory.

You just gotta love youth sports! Below are photos from the Southridge 3/4 Whites against Scappoose and the Southridge 3/4 Golds against that scrambling Tualatin team.

Friday, September 23, 2005

No Respect I Tell Ya, No Respect At All

They often get the hand-me-down uniforms, play on the crap fields, scrounge for every piece of equipment and if it weren't for having parents...would only end up playing in front of the occasional flock of seagulls hanging around the field scavenging for food. These are the high school JV soccer teams across America. Maybe it's a rite of passage...working their way up to the Varisty level...paying their dues. As the "professionalism" of high school athletics continues to alter the face of Varsity programs, the JV teams are still a bastion of competition for the sport of it.

I have recently become a volunteer assistant coach for the Glencoe High School JV Soccer Team. It's a fine group of kids that play their hearts out and are learning to play a quality game. The lads are off to a good start for the season with a 3-0-1 record. Their first match of the year was a 3-1 victory over Forest Grove HS, followed by a 1-0 home victory against a physical West Linn HS side.

This week Glencoe traveled to Tigard HS where they saw their 1-0 lead evaporate to a 1-2 deficit. The boys won the battle of the midfield in the second half and tied the match late in the game for a 2-2 draw. Today it was another away match with Newberg HS. On a rough and narrow football field, the lads played a magical first half and jumped out to a 4-0 lead. The second half was a more balanced affair as each team scored a goal resulting in a 5-1 victory for Glencoe. Respect may be tough to attain off the field, but if the lads continue their winning ways, they will earn a fair amount of respect on the field.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Get On Board! Tigard Skate Park

"If we had the money, I would start construction tomorrow," stated Tigard Mayor Craig Dirkson. He is speaking of the proposed Jim Griffith Memorial Skate Park he and a group of committed Skate Park Task Force volunteers are in the midst of raising funds in order to bring this dream to reality. Dirkson is so supportive of the project, he is even providing a portion of the City Hall parking lot as the prime location for the 25,000 sq ft park.

The Task Force has tirelessly been soliciting contributions from the community and businesses, applying for grants and putting on fund raising activities. Over 100 skaters and their parents have supported the efforts, including participating in the design of the park. There still is a long way to go until a groundbreaking can be scheduled. Simply put...they need more donors! As Rich Carlson, the Task Force leader said, "If other towns in Oregon such as Donald, Aumsville and Siletz can support a park, certainly Tigard should be able to step up and do it."

Last weekend, as part of the Tigard Family Festival, a fundraising event was held at the proposed location in the City Hall parking lot. It was a carnival atmosphere for kids and skating demonstrations were held in between the rain showers. A demonstration team sponsored by Tribute Skateboards was on hand, which included Josh Beaudry, who grew up skating in Dundee, Oregon and later spent time on the pro circuit. To find out more about the park and get information about how you can Get On Board, visit the Tigard Skate Park web site.

November 2007 Update: The park is now open. Read it, see it in this blog entry > Skate On!

Friday, September 16, 2005

The Road to Williamsport

It didn't look good. At the end of the second inning, the favored Murrayhill Little League team was down 6-1 to a feisty Corvallis squad. The cheers and excitement were coming from only one side of the Alpenrose Stadium. But it was just a matter of time, and that time was the third inning. The Murrayhill bats lit up and for six runs and the knockout punch was delivered in the fourth inning as Murrayhill put the game out of reach with an eleven run inning. The victory sent Murrayhill on to the regional tournament in San Bernardino the following week. But their dreams of a trip to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania were dashed as the eventual World Series Championship Team from Hawaii proved to be too powerful for the boys from Oregon, and it was a plane ride back home; not to Williamsport.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Timbers, Earthquakes and Sounders

I had just left the office, heading home on a sunny Wednesday evening when my cell phone was a photographer that often shoots for the Portland Timbers Professional USL Soccer Team. He had a conflict that evening and asked if I was available to shoot the Timbers vs San Jose Earthquakes US Open Cup match that evening. This was a cool opportunity, so I quickly took him up on his offer. Game time was in a little over an hour...I just happened to have my camera gear with me so off I trucked to PGE Park. I met Collin Romer, the Timbers' media relations manager, got the lowdown on what he was looking for and then headed down to field to shoot the match.

Unfortunately for the Timbers, going up against an MLS team in the second round of the Open Cup dashed the hopes of going further in the competition as San Jose downed the Timbers 2-0. I was able to pull off a handful of decent shots that were used for the MatchDay game report on the Timbers Web Site.

Collin was pleased with my work and offered me the opportunity to shoot another match a week later when the Timbers took on their arch rivals, the Seattle Sounders. PGE Park in the late afternoon presents some fairly challenging light conditions with half the field in dark shadows and half in bright sunlight. One is either shooting into the sun or blowing out the background with shadowed players against the sunlit outfield wall. This match the Timbers and I both faired well with their 1-0 victory over the Sounders and my photos that once again used for the MatchDay game report.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

A Hot 43 Degrees

One of the steepest velodrome tracks in the United States can be found at a family owned dairy in the suburbs of Portland, Oregon. I have mentioned before that Alpenrose is a family entertainment paradise without equal. Not only is there a terrific mix of sporting venues on the dairy property aimed at providing wholesome family is all provided for FREE, courtesy of the Cadonau Family, founders and owners of Alpenrose.

In 1962, a half-mile dirt track was installed in the back lot of the dairy property, intitiating what was soon to become a rich history of cycling at Alpenrose. The dirt track was replaced by the Velodrome in 1967 to host the National Championships...a 268 meter oval with 43 degree banks. If one stands at the top of one of the banks and looks down, the extreme angle is intimidating to say the least. After years of use and exposure to the elements the track went through a complete restoration in 1997 and remains in excellent condition today.

The "Circuit d' Alpenrose" is a jewel to the Oregon bicycling community. The summer weather brings a packed agenda of racing events, weekly series races and evening training races. The Oregon Bicycle Racing Association (OBRA) oversees all organized activities at the Velodrome through the tireless efforts of its volunteers. Schedules of events and information about the Alpenrose Velodrome can be found on their website.

Below are a few shots I recently took of some training races after shooting a softball game on the adjacent fields.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Watersports on the Prineville Reservoir

Ah summertime...Vacation time. Summer is short in Oregon. It seems we no sooner celebrate Memorial Day and the next thing one knows is that it's time to hand out trick-or-treat candy on a cold, dark 40 degree rainy night. On the west side of the Cascade Range, the good, hot summer weather really doesn't set in until after the 4th of July. But on the east side, on the high plain desert, sunny skies and hot days seem endless. The stark difference in weather between Western and Eastern Oregon is dramatic.

Every year several of our friends pack up their families, camping gear and ski boats and head off to Eastern Oregon for fun in the sun. The whole trip revolves around watersports. For the past few years, the location of choice has been the Prineville Reservoir. It was 5 days of nearly non-stop water sports...water skiing, wake boarding, tubing and jet skiing. With a messed up knee keeping me idle...while everyone played, I shot the action. Over 4,300 frames later, we packed up, pulled the boats in and headed back to work, paying the bills and house chores...Ah vacation time...only 51 weeks and we get to do it all over again.

Condon's Fabulous 4th Kid Races

As part of the Condon, OR 4th of July celebration, the adults had their Fabulous 4th 8K Run and 5K walk in the morning, and in the afternoon the kids took part in the traditional Kids' Races on the High School football field. The event is full of thrills and spills as the youngins competed in sprints, a three-legged race and a solo gunnysack race with distances varying based on age group. It was fun for all, and the victors claimed a shiny new Sacajawea One Dollar Gold Coin as a first place prize, courtesy of the Bank of Eastern Oregon.

See the photo gallery of the Kids' Races here: Condon Fabulous 4th Kids Games.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Condon, Oregon Fabulous 4th Run & Walk

Every 4th of July a small farm-based town of 650 residents in Central Oregon swells three times its size as family and friends gather to celebrate our nation's birth in a style reminiscent of a Norman Rockwell painting. Surrounded by miles and miles of wheat fields, the town of Condon, Oregon holds on to generations of tradition as modern times challenges the economics of being an isolated town with its roots tied to family-owned farming.

Known as "Condon's Fabulous 4th Celebration," annual events include breakfast in the park, a traditional small-town parade, a soapbox derby race, kids races and an impressive fireworks display at the High School. A couple of years ago a fun run and walk was added to the agenda of activities. The run starts 5 miles out of town at the windmill farm and ends at the town park. This year 15 runners hoofed the rolling road into town while about 25 walkers opted for the shorter 5K walk. It was a beautiful morning in a beautiful corner of the world. Life in Condon doesn't stand just moves at a pace city folks don't appreciate often enough.

See the photo gallery of the run here: Condon Fabulous 4th Run & Walk.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

My first photo assignment: Graduation 2005

Graduation is a time of nerves, excitement and anticipation...but this time I am not describing the graduates' feelings, I am speaking of my own. I was fortunate enough to be asked by the Beaverton Valley Times to cover three graduation ceremonies for their June 16th "The Class of 05" feature section. I photographed ceremonies at Valley Catholic HS, Southridge HS and Jesuit HS in Beaverton, OR. It was a great experience...Definitely a challenge to find the moments, get a good shot and get the personal information from those in a photo. All-in-all, I was very pleased to have 7 of my submissions published. Below are 3 of them with the captions as they were published.

Self Portrait - Valley Catholic High School grads (above, from left) Eric Choi and Glen Thonis take a pre-commencement photo Saturday, June 4, in preparation for their final appearance with their class.

Graduation Scenes - Jesuit grad Sacha Bernards adjusting Chris Dieringer's honor tassel as Laurel Bently looks on.

Ready To Go - Southridge senior designated hitter Cory Bence showed up for graduation Saturday afternoon at the University of Portland still clad in her softball jersey and firstplace medal from the Skyhawks' state title win.